The Engagement Party by R.J. Gould

Title - The Engagement Party
Author - R.J. Gould 
Publisher - Accent Press
Publication Date - May 5th 2015
Format - Paperback (Provided via publisher)

One celebration destined for failure.

Wayne and Clarissa are a young London couple whose immediate families are about to meet for the first time. Trying to create harmony between the parents is hard enough, but in this case there are eight parents, step-parents, and partners to cope with.

Wayne comes from a working class background and Clarissa, an upper-middle class one. They are deeply in love but tensions arising from the forthcoming gathering have created a rift, and it's touch and go whether their relationship is strong enough to survive the event.

With more than just an engagement on the line, can these two families come together - or will their differences rip them all apart?

I was first introduced to R.J. Gould earlier this year in February when I read and reviewed A Street Cafe Named Desire, and you can find my review here. R.J. Gould is the author of contemporary fiction and he often explores relationships and families within his work with a fresh, male voice which I really enjoy hearing from. As an author, R.J. Gould writes about the things that I, as a reader, love to hear about: difficult families, marriage, relationships, and trying to find that all-important balance between life's commitments. His novels are very real, down to earth and thought-provoking in a way which I find very pleasing. After reading A Street Cafe Named Desire, I realised that R.J. Gould's voice was a very unique one, not only because he is a man writing loose romance and contemporary fiction, but his take on the world and everything included in it resonates with my own views so perfectly. This author offers readers a fantastic, if somewhat satirical, insight into the otherwise closed-lives of families who make us laugh, groan, roll our eyes but ultimately, can relate to. 

When Richard contacted me in regards to reading and reviewing his latest novel The Engagement Party, I couldn't wait to get started. Once I'd read the blurb and admired the cover, I had high hopes for what sounded like a brilliant idea and really looked forward to see how R.J. Gould would unravel the story for his readers. There's nothing like a peek into a chaotic family's life, and Richard achieved this in the most appealing of ways.

Throughout the progression of The Engagement Party, the reader is given the chance to dip in and out of each family member's life, including those of the husband-and-wife-to-be's step-parents. The author switches from character to character with each chapter change and it was a brilliant way to get to know each of the characters in turn. From Clarissa and Wayne, the newly-engaged couple, to their parents and their new partners, we're given the chance to delve right into each of their pasts and to see how their present circumstances came about. I really did love these moments as it brought these characters to life more than ever for me. Richard's descriptions of his characters were as humorous as ever, even their dialect felt as real to me as if it were being spoken right beside me. As much I thought the numerous characters were a brilliant aspect to add to the book, at times I did grow confused as to who was who's husband or wife, and which of the engaged couple they were parents/step-parents to. There were so many different names and relations to remember, and at times, I found I had to go back to try and figure out who was who, just to set them all straight in my mind. As much as I enjoyed the varied characters and narratives, I have to admit that it probably slowed down my progression of the novel just a little bit. 

The plot follows Wayne and Clarissa in the run-up to their much-anticipated engagement party, and the author, for me, got the tension and worry spot-on in regards to the upcoming event. It was very interesting to hear thoughts from each character about the engagement party and even more so because each characters' views were so different. Some were excited and wanted to shout it from the rooftops, whereas others were hesitant due to the fact that the engaged couple Wayne and Clarissa came from very different backgrounds. Wayne, the more working-class, not-so-flashy type, and Clarissa, the middle-class, expensive and well-to-do type. The differences between Wayne and Clarissa were immediately evident, and Gould begins the novel with a bang, during which the couple are within an argument. It's a pinnacle moment and shows the inner workings of Clarissa and Wayne, and how they react to what's going on between them, as well as the upcoming engagement party. Gould chooses some great scenes to include within his novel, past as well as present, and it only increases the depth to how well we get to know each of his characters. 

At times, I found the pace a little bit slow and felt eager to get to the next big scene, but then just when I thought I was losing interest, something would happen to ensure I continued reading. Gould chose some truly brilliant moments that drew the real personalities out of his characters and I enjoyed this so much, and with such a huge build-up towards the engagement party, I just couldn't wait to reach it to see what would unfold. I anticipated fireworks, clashing opinions and warring ex's, and at the same time, wanted it to actually go smoothly for Wayne and Clarissa. I couldn't wait to see what Gould had in store for me.

Overall, I really have to give R.J. Gould credit for such a brilliant and original plot idea. It was creative, fresh and oh-so-exciting, and it thrills me to think of what this author has in store next for his readers, as I feel there are so many directions which he could take! Gould has a wonderful voice, one which I think is very distinctive and one that I really cannot wait to hear more from. 

Becca's Books is awarding The Engagement Party by R.J. Gould with FOUR CUPCAKES! A very enjoyable novel which follows the lives of the family members involved in the troublesome run-up to Wayne and Clarissa's engagement, but life is never as rosy as we like to believe it to be and that is very much evident in the circumstances which unfold. With a touch of Gould's classic humour and an insight into one family's best/worst moments, this really was a joy!

*Special thanks to R.J. Gould and Accent Press for providing me with a digital copy of The Engagement Party in exchange for a fair and honest review*

Question: Can males write Romance?
Answer: Yes!

I write humorous contemporary fiction, loosely romantic, but with an edge as I explore family relationships across age, gender and class. There is some emphasis on the baggage accumulated by middle-aged protagonists as they attempt to balance the pressures of work, children and new romances. A male perspective on these issues provides a refreshingly original viewpoint.

I was selected for the New Writers' Scheme of the Romantic Novelists Association in 2014 and following this accolade was taken on by publisher Accent Press. 'A Street Cafe Named Desire' was released in December 2014 and 'The Engagement Party' was released in May 2015.

I'm a member of the Society of Authors and Cambridge Writers, where I lead the Commercial Editing Group. I was the organisation's short story competition winner in 2010, awarded third place in 2015, and my writing was commended in 2012 and 2014. 

I work for a national educational charity and have published in a wide range of educational journals, newspapers and magazines, but writing fiction is my passion.

You can find R.J. Gould on Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter



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